In what universe continued . . .
On one side of the disagreement was a volunteer veterinarian who had been providing free medical care onsite. From time to time he even took animals back to his practice for treatment—sometimes surgery, sometimes nursing and monitoring, and sadly, sometimes hospice comfort care. At no time did the vet charge the shelter for his services. On the day in question, the vet was accompanied by two other long-time volunteers.
On the other side of the disagreement were management-level shelter staff and an officer of the Board of Directors.
We will not address the facts or merits of the disagreement. What does concern us, however, is the manner in which the incident was handled after the argument escalated.
During the disagreement a staff member allegedly placed her hands on the veterinarian and, according to the 71-year-old vet, (yes, 71!), she pushed him. His companions state they witnessed this as well. In a subsequent personal comment on social media (arguably an unusual venue for airing a sensitive work-related issue), the staff person wrote that she did not push the vet.
Witnesses maintain that staff contacted the Interim Board President during the incident. In addition, they state that on speaker phone she instructed the staff members to contact the police to remove the vet and his companions if they did not leave of their own accord. They left the building.
So far one might think this is nothing more than an ugly “he said/she said” dustup that got out of hand. But things deteriorated.
Far more than most of us, the veterinarian was familiar with conditions at the shelter. Regarding this particular day in September, he has said that he felt physically threatened by the staff member and that he subsequently filed a police report. We are told that the responding officer suggested that in the future the vet could opt to follow up with a formal complaint and press charges, which to date he has not done.
Here’s the rub.
Six weeks have passed. The Interim Board President reportedly gave direction to staff during the disagreement. Shortly thereafter a second board member learned of the incident including what the three volunteers alleged. It is reasonable to assume therefore that the Board has been informed.
Yet no one—neither the board nor staff—has met with the veterinarian to inquire about his experience. In what universe is that OK?
Nearly seven weeks later, no apology or simple olive branch has been offered by the board or staff. The employee who allegedly pushed the vet appears to remain in her management-level position while the Interim President who directed police involvement appears to continue in a leadership position. Yet the veterinarian and the two volunteers who witnessed the incident have not been welcomed back!
If the accounts that we have received are true and accurate, and we have no reason to believe they are not, it is neither appropriate nor good practice for a business to allow staff to engage in such a contentious and possibly harmful action with a guest, visitor, or volunteer. It is symptomatic of internal dysfunction for any business, whether for-profit or nonprofit, to ignore such a disturbing incident.
We believe there are individuals on the board who want only to serve the best interests of the animals and the community and we want to support them in those efforts.
When regarded as a functional unit, however, if a board disrespects and ignores its valuable volunteers rather than inviting them into constructive dialogue, how responsive will it be to the needs of its animals?
In the interest of fairness and progress, we respectfully urge the board to address this matter quickly.